The first night of Chanukah was celebrated in Fort William with a blaze of Chanukah candles, food, and song, as a dozen members of the Jewish Network of Argyll and the Highlands got together for the evening’s festivities, organised by SCoJeC and held at the home of Wendy and Dagan Lev, to whom SCoJeC are grateful for their hospitality. Despite the bad weather that had disrupted transport during the previous days, ferries and buses were running to schedule, so that people could get there from as far away as Oban and the Ardnamurchan and Morvern peninsulas. The evening also had an interfaith element as we were happy to welcome the Rev. Ann Winning of Glencoe to our midst.
Whilst home-made vegetable soup simmered away, we set out the buffet, which (of course!) included the traditional Chanukah fare of latkes, as well as bagels and lox. Once all the visitors had arrived, the Chanukah story was told, brachot said, and the candles lit as everyone joined in singing Ma’oz Tzur. Old friendships were re-established and new friendships made, teenager Abigail attracted the children to her like a magnet, whilst the grown-ups chatted and put the world to rights – but not too seriously to enjoy playing dreidel!
Asking “Where are you from?", "… and before that?", "… and the family?” provided an object lesson in recent Jewish history. “New York – and before that Germany”; “London East End – and before that Poland”; “Israel – and before that Hungary”; “all over the Far East – but before that the family were in Hull after arriving from Latvia”. And so it goes: no matter how dispersed geographically our ancestors became, we still gather together as one family in celebration and commemoration of our joint past. Opportunities to come together are particularly important for small groups such as this who not only live a long way from from Scotland's larger Jewish communities, but even from any other Jewish people, some revealing and some concealing their Jewishness, yet all holding their Jewish heritage dear.
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